Chapter 1: Baking with Hiroki

Chapter 1: Baking with Hiroki

-Kagurazaka Hiroki-

Ah, the sound of the icing squeezing from the tube, the refined look of the slowly forming purple rose petal on the bright, spring yellow icing. I moved the tube in a small circle, smiling lovingly at each rose as they came to form.

"There you go," I cooed, tilting my head just slightly to the side to take in the unfinished elegance of the angel food cake sitting on the box in which it would soon be packed. I was completely off in my own world, talking to the cake that I was forming, when a little giggle erupted from behind my right shoulder. I turned with surprise to stare into the brown eyes of Saitama Kaeri, my coworker and close friend.

"Do you insist on frightening me like that? What would you do if I accidentally ruined this poor cake's decorations?" I asked in a falsely irritated voice. Kaeri giggled again, turning her body so she was leaning on the counter next to me.

"If you did mess it up, I would help you bake a new one, and we would eat the ruined one," she told me, shrugging. I shook my head at her nonchalance and gestured to the elegant creation in front of me, with its multicolored roses, pastel colored base, violet swirls, and pink writing in the center. The sight of my creation made my mouth water indeed, but not because I wanted to eat it. Rather, I delighted in the fact that this wonderful pastry had been wholly created by me, designed by me, and now finished by me. I delighted in the fact that in a few hours, my cake would be enjoyed by someone else, and that someone else might come back for yet another. I didn't want to eat it myself; I wanted to make others happy with my baking and with my exquisite designs. I wanted to be recognized for my creativity and my abilities.

"I don't want to eat my own cake," I grumbled, folding the box around my creation and setting it delicately atop the counter next to a box of another kind. I gestured loosely to it, moving to the oven as I did. "Are those your cookies?"

"Yep," Kaeri said proudly. "They were hard to make, too. Why do people demand such extravagant pastries when they're simply going to eat them in the end?" She sighed, moving to my side as I unloaded a series of four cakes from the ovens against the wall. Once I had all four lined up in a row on the countertop, I turned to look at her exhaustedly.

"Do you understand the point of baking? Here in this shop, we aren't just baking cakes and pies and cookies and crepes—we're creating a form of art, making these foods with love and with care, and the people who eat them are healed and are inspired. We are the ones behind the smile of a young child, or the gratification behind a completed work of art. We give people nourishment; we please them. I don't understand how you can't grasp such a concept," I said proudly, lifting a clean knife from a drawer and cutting one of the cakes into four pieces to make a layer cake. "Can you take some strawberries from the freezer over there and mash them in a bowl with some whipped cream?"

"You're so weird, Hiroki. Only you could get pleasure out of baking for people." She laughed, retrieving a bowl from one of the cupboards and then removing frozen strawberries from the freezer. "Didn't the customer want crumbled cookies in the batter as well?"

"Yes, but we have to mix the strawberries and the whipped crème first, and make sure the strawberries are soft enough. Then you can add the cookie crumbles," I told her nonchalantly as I ripped the plastic covering off a tub of green tea icing and dumped it on top of another one of the cakes. Kaeri watched me for a moment, taking interest in how carefully I ran the icing overtop the chocolate cake, the pains I took to keep it even and smooth.

"What are the other two cakes for? I thought we only have two more quotas to fill," she pointed out, removing the whipped cream from the refrigerator and dumping it into the bowl with the strawberries. I could see her eyeing up the red and white paste already, even before she began to stir and make the ingredients one.

"I'm making a display cake for the window. Someone bought the other one this morning before you came in and I don't like the look of an empty case, so I'm going to make another one," I explained, still carefully icing the green tea cake. The person who had ordered it was an old man, and he'd demanded that I use no sugar. I thought it odd that such a man had ordered a cake, but pushed the thought aside when I saw him, outside, an adornment on the arm of a pretty redheaded foreigner. He was likely making the cake for the two of them to share, though men in Japan often didn't eat sweets-myself included, though I did enjoy looking at them.

"Every time you make a display cake, I always want to eat it," Kaeri grumbled.

"I'll make you a cake someday too," I promised. She looked over in my direction with a smile, her arm moving in circles as she stirred the filling for my layer cake. Kaeri had eaten many of my cakes before, and I was pleased to say that she smiled as much with one bite as those in a fancy restaurant smiled at the end of a good meal. "You should stir the filling a little faster," I told her. "Here." I moved from icing the green tea cake and put my larger hands atop Kaeri's smaller hands, helping her turn the little spoon faster and faster until the things inside the bowl were a soft pink paste. Kaeri was blushing quietly, her cheeks the same cute color as the strawberry mixture in the bowl, and she pulled away from my hands with that little 'gomen' that some Japanese girls like to make when they're embarrassed. I watched her go at the frosting once more for a moment before returning to my green tea cake, taking only every few moments to watch my coworker out of the corner of my eye.

It might look like there's chemistry between us, but I know for sure there isn't, and there won't ever be. On more than one occasion a boy from my school named Kawachii Takahisa comes strolling so casually into the store, hands stuffed in his pockets, smiling shyly at Kaeri. One look between those two, and I knew they were made for each other. Aside from his frequent appearances, she talks about him, and how they're best friends but she can't express her feelings for him because he already likes someone. As much as I try to push her into thinking deeply about those handsome smiles he throws her, she won't accept the fact that he acts like he likes her.

Delving from them, I wish sometimes that someone like Takahisa would stroll in the door and smile just at me, like he does to her. She and I are so similar in every way, except for that one thing. And she's always on my case to find a girlfriend, someone I get along with, or someone that makes me smile that smile no one ever gets to see. I don't think she understands…

"I don't like girls," I said, completely lost in thought, fixing the icing on the side of my horrible looking green tea cake. The color of this green was truly infuriating, and probably the worst looking color I'd ever worked with before. If it had been under a smaller time restraint, I probably would have redone it but alas, I had but an hour before the older gentleman would be by to pick it up. Did he realize the time it took to make a cake, the love and the care that went into the process? Such exquisite feelings couldn't be mustered and let out properly within a simple two-hour time restraint.

Not two seconds after the words had left my mouth did I realize what I'd just revealed, and immediately my hand clamped over my lips. My eyes flew to my coworker paused in her incessant mixing, staring blankly at the wall in front of her with a vacant look all over her face. I quickly went to apologize for my daydreaming, and to make up some story about my words.

"I, I mean to say t-that I, I…" I bit furiously at my lip, finally meeting Kaeri's eyes when she turned slowly to look at me. "I'm sorry! I was daydreaming!" I began to bow in respect to her, but she stopped me with a hand softly resting on my shoulder.

"You mean to tell me you're gay?" she inquired, tilting her beautiful head to the side in question. I winced and nodded, but the nod was so slight that I wondered if she'd even glimpsed it.

In this part of Japan and with my family background—one of the most respected and one of the richest families in this part of the world—having such a son would be scandalous. I would probably be more of a disgrace than I already was, a burden and a joke not only to my school, but to my family, my friends, and my country.

I should explain. The Kagurazaka family—my family-owns one of the biggest companies in Asia, a filming company called Atarigae, which means 'successful'. Atarigae works with some of the biggest actors in the business, the kind of guys that are on posters along the main roads in Tokyo, or whose pictures are set as wallpaper backgrounds on the cell phone of every teenage girl in Japan. I'll admit that I've even taken special pictures of a few of them when I could get a glance, just to set them as the background to my own cell phone.

Since my parents own this company, it's not uncommon to have these famous, drop-dead gorgeous actors over for dinner sometimes. Of course, this doesn't happen often—partly because my parents are rarely home, and partly because they don't often work with the actors face to face. They handle all the hiring, the placements of the movies or the dramas, and any lawsuits that may occur. Nevertheless, their position in the company doesn't keep them from doing a model shoot or two at my home, and at those times I feel absolutely gracious to my heritage.

Being the owners of such a company, my own sexuality would certainly come as an embarrassment to their scrupulous business, where they've worked every day of their lives to obtain the standards that have held up until this day, and probably will continue until their deaths and beyond.

This isn't to say that gays aren't accepted in today's society; by far, that part of the world has come a long way. However, the sad fact is that in my upstanding society, being straight is the prevalent choice; those who are gay keep it hidden, and usually marry and procreate despite their lack of interest in any such thing.

I can't stand to subject myself to this sort of thing, but what other choice do I have? Already I've lost the future ownership of the company to Aoisuke, my brother; I don't want to lose my dignity or my high position right now, when I'm so vulnerable. If I'm disowned now, I lose my college scholarship, my chance of graduating high school (the price of my school is tremendous, obviously), my family, and probably most of what friends I have. No, I'd rather risk such a thing later on in life, when I've blazed a trail through society first, and have become that amazing first class pastry chef I've always wanted to be. I'll go on tours in Europe, where homosexuality is accepted more easily, and I'll set up a career over there. But for now, I have to live with my secret… and now, Kaeri will have to live with it too.

"I, I, I… no!" I cried, dropping the icing tool and rushing off toward the bathroom with a sad feeling in my heart. I've been working with Kaeri for a few years now, but I still cannot confirm if she's the type of person to gossip. I guess now I'll find out.

I cringed at the thought of being teased and tormented by my classmates, my teachers, my friends, my siblings, and my parents. I tried to create a plan for the rest of my desolate life. How would I become a pastry chef if I had no education? Of course, Kobe Gakuen didn't exactly supply me with the knowledge I'd need to ice a cake, but the money my parents supplied would be what would take me to the top. What would I do if I lost it all…?

Silently, I prayed to the Buddha that Kaeri wouldn't tell anyone my secret. At that moment, as I held my hands close in prayer and bowed very low, there was a soft knock at the door.

"Hiroki? I'm sorry I reacted so weirdly when you said you were… well, you know. Can you just come out, and we'll talk about it as we ice your cakes together?" Her muffled voice was filled with that twinkling hope I knew her for. Slowly, I stood up and opened the bathroom door, immediately finding myself almost face to face with my friend. I shuffled my feet nervously and glanced at the expensive watch around my wrist.

"I only have… half an hour to ice that green tea cake," I mumbled almost incoherently. She stepped aside and followed me to the bakery. Right before we went into the main room, she grabbed my shoulder—tentatively, of course—and smiled at me.

"I won't tell anyone, Hiroki. I think it's cute." She smiled at me, immediately removing her hand from my scorching hot skin. I squinted my eyes at her, trying to see through a guise that any other person would have put on. In a moment, she would be laughing in my face and teasing me.

That moment never came. After meeting her soft brown eyes for a full five minutes, I nodded graciously and smiled widely. "Twenty-five minutes left. Help me whip the icing for the green tea cake?"

As we were making the finishing touches on that green tea cake, which had actually turned out to be the cake-likeness of the ugly duckling, Kaeri turned to me with a grin the size of the Tokyo Tower and said, with a mischievous edge to her voice, "So, if I meet any… guys, can I give them your number?"

Author's Notes: Well, here's the first chapter to the next section of my Kimi to Ai series! I don't know how long it will be until the next person's story will be posted but until then, I am proud to announce the opening of my Kimi to Ai webpage! You can find it at /taciturngunblade. Just click on 'Ubers Ende Der Welt' and from there, it's easy navigation to the Kimi to Ai page. I hope you all enjoy the pretty pictures I've selected for my characters! Of course, at the moment there isn't much there, because I haven't introduced many characters yet. Nonetheless, I think it is satisfactory for now!

Until the next update!